Research Highlight: Green Birding Challenge

Written by Anne Reis
    Monday, 14 April 2014
Research Highlight: Green Birding Challenge

Spring migration is one of the Research and Community Science Team's favorite times of year. For the fourth year in a row, we are hosting our Green Birding Challenge (GBC), the Team's signature annual fundraiser! Do you enjoy spending time outdoors hiking or biking, or just sitting and listening to the sounds of nature? If so, this year's GBC, held on Saturday, May 10th, is the event for you! Get out your walking shoes, dust off your lawnchair or pump up your bike tires and participate in a little competitive birding. Register a team for one of our four challenges: stationary birding, birding on foot, birding by bike, or a mini-challenge. Your participation will help us celebrate International Migratory Bird Day and help raise money for bird conservation and community science!

The first Green Birding Challenge was a small event with only 9 participants.  It was so cold, rainy and windy, the event coordinators bought coffee and hot chocolate for the participants and delivered it while they were en route. The 2012 event was warm, starting out in the high 60s and climbing to almost 90 degrees by the end of the event. Despite the warmth, fewer species were found most likely because of the later date (May 20) in the migration period. Last year, 50 adults and kids participated, raising $4800 in pledges. And despite cooler temperatures (50 F), teams found an impressive 112 species last year. Based on the trajectory of participation, pledges and species numbers (see graph to the right), we are on track for a successful event in 2014!

CootCityTeams register for one of four types of challenges: walking, biking, stationary or mini-challenge (you can choose among previous three types but it's a shorter challenge). Teams consist of three people. You can add a fourth, but only if one of your team members is a birding novice. Mini-Challenge teams are not limited in number.

Once you've formed a team, we encourage you to come up with a creative name. Some examples of past team names include: No Egrets, Unladen Swallows (a Monty Python reference), Common Caws, and The Chirpettes! Team Coot City brought style to the event with their coordinated team t-shirts (photo at left). 

This year we are hoping to increase youth participation. Last year, three Young Scientist Club teams from the Center's Washington Park branch participated, finding a total of 60 species ( see photo of team below)! This year we hope to have at least 8 youth teams register for the event. Do you know of any kids that would want to participate? Please pass along the invite!YSC2013

We provide registration scholarships for our young scientists and any other youth who want to participate but need help with the registration fee. Please consider donating to the scholarship fund to sponsor a youth team!

We are also looking for experienced birders to mentor our Young Scientist Club teams and any mini-challenge teams who want to learn more about bird watching and need help with species identification. In fact, individuals from last year's winning team have agreed to be team mentors. But, we need more mentors and are looking for paticipants willing to spend a morning teaching kids or families about birding! Please email Jennifer Callaghan at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you are interested.

The event ends with a lunch, donated by Beans and Barley, and an award ceremony. All participants are eligible for fun bird-themed door prizes. This year, those teams who raise $300 or more in pleges are eligible to win a Vortex Optics Diamondback 20-60X60 spotting scope donated by Eagle Optics. Top Winners win experiential prizes like canoe and birding trips by local ornithologists.

So, how do you get involved in this event? There are a variety of ways. Consider forming a team, register on our website, and start collecting pledges from your neighbors and family. Your registration fee includes lunch and a cool event t-shirt! If you can't participate, consider pledging to a team or donating a door prize! We also need volunteers during the event to help register participants, take photos, track team locations and/or help with lunch. Your pledge to the Green Birding Challenge allows the Research & Community Science Team to continue to provide the high quality programming you've come to expect from the Urban Ecology Center. If you have any questions or need help forming a team, please contact Jennifer Callaghan at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Anne Reis at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Anne Reis

Anne Reis

Anne has conducted research on a variety of topics including cranberries, potatoes, wetlands, lichens, tamaracks, and most recently bats. She has a B.S. and M.S. in Horticulture from UW-Madison and a M.S. in Biological Sciences and a GIS Certificate from UW-Milwaukee. Anne is the GIS Specialist at the Center and enjoys reading, mapping, gardening, and spending time outside with her husband and daughter in the Riverwest neighborhood.

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